Perfect place to get lost

Artist’s republic of Fremont lies within walking distance for SPU students

Mason Williams, Staff Reporter

Fremont was not always a part of Seattle, in fact, up until 1891, it was its own city. Although it may now be just a neighborhood inside a larger city, it has retained a culture distinct from that of the surrounding area. 

The “Artists’ Republic of Fremont” is home to unique, eccentric, contrarian culture; a place where thinking outside of what’s commonly accepted and perpetuated by society is not only tolerated but encouraged. 

Fremont allows one to be, to find and to express oneself — and that is evident in the art on display in Fremont. All within a short walk, the following pieces can be easily enjoyed by students at Seattle Pacific University. 

Angel Abad
The “Fremont Troll” sculpted by Steve Badaness, Will Martin, Donna Walter, and Ross Whitehead in 1990 under the Aurora Bridge, was inspired by Scandinavian folklore.

The Fremont Troll

For almost thirty years, an eighteen-foot tall troll has lurked beneath the Aurora Bridge in Fremont. 

Adorned with a shiny hubcap for an eye, it can be seen clutching a Volkswagen Beetle in its left hand.

According to the Seattle Times, the first publication to write a story about the troll back in September of 1990, it was designed by four artists — led by Steve Badanes — and constructed with the help of dozens of community volunteers over the course of seven weeks.

According to Badanes, the troll was meant to be an anti-development statement because outsider development in the area threatened the community, which traditionally was a haven for families and small businesses.

Ironically enough, the Fremont Troll is a major tourist attraction and has even been featured in the 1999 movie “10 Things I Hate About You,” featuring Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles. 

The troll is also transformed throughout the year into a meeting spot for various celebrations.

One of these is “Troll-o-ween,” a public celebration on Oct. 31 that starts under the bridge and moves out towards other areas of Fremont. 


Angel Abad
The “Lenin Statue” in the Fremont Neighborhood has been a landmark in Fremont, despite controversy surrounding its display.

The Statue of Lenin

A sixteen-foot bronze sculpture of Communist leader Vladimir Lenin has stood in the middle of North Fremont Place since 1996. 

According to the accompanying plaque, it was made by Emil Venkov and installed in the city of Poprad, Slovakia in 1988 — only to be torn down when the Communist Party was overthrown in 1989.

The statue was forgotten until Issaquah local Lewis Carpenter found it lying in a Poprad scrapyard in 1993 and then mortgaged his home to transport it back to the northwest. 

The statue has been marred by controversy since the day it was erected in Seattle, facing multiple attempts by community members to tear it down. 

It has also been vandalized multiple times and in various ways, since it was installed, such as painting Lenin’s hands blood red and plastering the word “murderer” across the statue.

The Fremont website defends the statue in a statement, calling it “truly unique.”

It is believed to be the only representation portraying Lenin surrounded by guns and flames instead of holding a book or waving his hat. The sculptor was able to express his vision of Lenin as a violent revolutionary,” the website explains. 

They see it not as memorializing Lenin and his legacy, but as a grave reminder of a terrible history that is never to be repeated.

The Fremont Rocket

Angel Abad
The “Rocket,” a 53-foot tall statue located in Fremont, originally adorned an army surplus store in Belltown before being purchased by the Fremont Business Association and erected in Fremont in 1994.The Fremont Rocket

The rocket sits atop a building at the intersection of North 36th Street and Evanston Avenue North, brandishing the unofficial motto of Fremont:

De Libertas Quirkas,” which is Latin for “The Freedom to be Peculiar.”

According to the Fremont website, an army surplus store in Belltown was discarding the fuselage of a cold war rocket dating in 1991. 

Associates of the Fremont Business Association, a group of local business owners, saved it from the scrap heap. 

In the summer of 1993, it was finally finished being redesigned. They added fins, a nose cone, and laser pods to each wing and the nose. Upon activation, steam billows out the base of the rocket. 

Waiting for the Interurban

Off to the side of North 34th Street is the iconic statue “Waiting for the Interurban.”

According to Fremont’s website, it was made in 1979 by Richard Beyer.

It depicts six people and a dog with a human face waiting for the interurban light rail that once ran through all of Seattle.

The face of the dog is said to belong to Arman Napoleon Stepanian, a Fremont community leader and the so-called “Godfather of Recycling.” 

Every year the statue is the target of dozens of “art attacks,” in which citizens decorate the statue in accordance with the season, holiday or occasion.

Instead of condemning this activity as vandalism or defacement of public property, the Fremont neighborhood whole-heartedly encourages it.

Dreamer of World Peace

Angel Abad
“Dreamer of World Peace” located on the Burke-Gilman Trail pays tribute to Sri Chinmoy, an ambassador for peace and world harmony. Flowers are often left at Chinmoy’s statue.

A statue of Sri Chinmoy was built along the Burke-Gilman trail and dedicated in November of 2010.

Sri Chinmoy started the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run which has grown to include participants in over 140 countries since 1987.

According to the informational plaque accompanying the monument, Chinmoy not only offered twice-weekly peace meditations to delegates at the United Nations, but also composed more than 22,000 songs, performed at more than 800 concerts and wrote more than 1,600 books on peace, spirituality, music, art and athletics. 

Chinmoy wished to be known as a student of peace and lived in the hopes that his legacy would inspire a new era of harmonious living between all people.

Now whenever anyone’s running the Burke-Gilman trail and enjoying the stunning view of Lake Union, they too can carry the torch and honor the legacy of this great visionary. 

While many have taken to calling Fremont the “Center of the Universe”, it really is an entirely different world. 

Its unique collection of public artworks encourages visitors and locals alike to get lost in the rich history of the neighborhood, no matter the direction in which one chooses to wander.